Salah’s AFCON 2023 quest reignites football’s club vs country debate

3 months ago 44

A fewer minutes aft joining the elite 150-goal nine for Liverpool and helping his squad ascent to the apical of a intimately contested Premier League table, Mohamed Salah laid bare his ambition to “win this competition”.

The subordinate of the lucifer successful Monday’s 4-2 triumph implicit Fulham had already shifted his absorption to winning a trophy that has eluded him aft 2 finals – the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Egypt’s skipper Salah would soon depart the United Kingdom to nexus up with his teammates for the continental title being held successful the Ivory Coast from January 13 to February 11.

The tourney was primitively scheduled for the summertime of 2023, but was postponed owed to the rainy play successful the West African big nation.

Following his 2 goals against Newcastle astatine Anfield, which besides sent him to the associated apical of the scoring charts alongside Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, Salah was pressed astir his priorities by erstwhile Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher connected Sky Sports.

“It means a batch to play successful the nationalist team,” Salah replied. “It’s a large feeling each clip you measurement connected the tract with the nationalist squad jersey.”

“It’s thing I cannot instrumentality for granted. I americium conscionable blessed to beryllium there, blessed to play successful the tournament.

“I privation to triumph this contention [AFCON]. I would emotion to triumph it,” helium reaffirmed.

Salah has been astatine the losing extremity of 2 AFCON finals – successful 2017 arsenic a young striker and successful 2021 arsenic the skipper who tearfully saw his broadside suffer to Senegal successful a punishment shootout.

Now a talismanic person of the Pharaohs, Salah would beryllium determined to guarantee his squad walks distant arsenic champions for a record-extending eighth time.

In esteemed institution 😤@MoSalah is lone the 3rd subordinate to amass 20+ Premier League extremity involvements successful 7 successive seasons 👏

— Premier League (@premierleague) January 2, 2024

A pyramid-sized spread for Liverpool

Despite its popularity successful the football-mad African continent and beyond, AFCON has been somewhat of a arguable contention successful the past fixed its humanities placing midway done the league seasons successful Europe.

It has adjacent led to clubs suggesting they would not motion African internationals fixed their lack from nine duties arsenic they enactment successful the event, which is staged each 2 years.

Salah is arguably the biggest departure from the European signifier for this variation of Africa’s showpiece tournament.

The 31-year-old has helped Liverpool, which finished 5th past play and failed to suffice for the UEFA Champions League, to a three-point pb astatine the apical of the Premier League arsenic it enters its 2nd half.

A changeable astatine a 2nd league rubric successful 34 years is wrong touching region for the Reds, but their record-breaking forward, who besides leads the charts for assists successful the Premier League successful 2023, is going to permission a pyramid-sized spread down him.

When AFCON’s determination from the summertime of 2023 to the opening of 2024 was confirmed, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp termed it a “catastrophe”.

“If we person to marque a determination astir bringing successful a subordinate [to the club] – it’s monolithic because, earlier the season, you cognize you don’t person him for astatine slightest 4 weeks,” Klopp added, referring to players missing nine matches successful bid to enactment successful AFCON.

With Klopp’s squad starring the league by a slim borderline of 3 points, Salah’s availability – oregon deficiency thereof – has made Liverpool fans uncomfortable.

As the Premier League top-four contention heats up, Dan Plumley – a athletics concern adept – believes it volition beryllium absorbing to ticker however Salah’s lack affects Liverpool’s rubric push.

“There whitethorn not beryllium a large quality successful prize wealth for each spot successful the Premier League, but winning the rubric itself is immense – overmuch similar winning AFCON would beryllium for Salah,” Plumley told Al Jazeera.

“The UEFA Champions League is the biggest [financial] contented and assuming Liverpool driblet disconnected [in the Premier League] and spell extracurricular the apical 4 spots, that’s worthy astir 50 cardinal pounds ($63m).”

150 @PremierLeague goals successful Red for @MoSalah 👑

— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 1, 2024

Club work enactment connected hold

Salah is slated to miss 7 games for Liverpool should helium pb his broadside to the last connected February 11. This includes Chelsea’s sojourn to Anfield connected January 31 and Liverpool’s travel to rubric rivals Arsenal 4 days later.

In England, Arsenal and Tottenham volition besides beryllium deed hard by AFCON successful presumption of absentees.

Spurs and Liverpool volition besides person to bash without South Korea’s Son Heung-min and Japan’s Wataru Endo respectively arsenic the brace depart for the Asian Cup, which is moving simultaneously to AFCON.

Manchester United are acceptable to suffer their first-choice goalkeeper Andre Onana.

The Cameroonian stopper retired from planetary shot pursuing his expulsion from the nationalist squad during the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

After Onana was sent location pursuing a fallout with manager Rigobert Song, it appeared his aboriginal with Cameroon was over. However, Onana reversed his determination past September, hardly 2 months aft Onana’s debut for United.

Would United person signed him had they known helium whitethorn instrumentality for Cameroon?

Plumley, who teaches athletics concern astatine Sheffield Hallam University successful the UK, agreed that subordinate availability tin impact signings.

“Scheduling is apt to power subordinate signing decision-making,” helium said.

The Confederation of African Football projected successful 2017 for AFCON to beryllium held during European summertime months from 2019 onwards. While the 2019 variation successful Egypt was held successful June and July, the 2021 tourney successful Cameroon was pushed to January and February 2022 owed to the COVID-19 pandemic and to debar adverse upwind conditions.

Plumley believes scheduling poses a occupation for the wider shot calendar.

The revamped FIFA Club World Cup volition apt determination to the summertime and determination are besides the Euros and Copa America, truthful it’s a crowded schedule,” helium said.

“Ultimately, you person to support AFCON, truthful clubs volition person to enactment up with it wherever it falls, but it if stays successful wintertime it volition proceed to origin issues betwixt clubs and country.

“Clubs volition beryllium factoring things similar this into the signings, particularly erstwhile the [player signing] fees are truthful high.”

📅 December 2022: André Onana retires from planetary shot aft a disagreement with Cameroon manager Rigobert Song ❌

📅 September 2023: André Onana announces helium volition instrumentality to planetary shot 👋

📅 October 2023: André Onana is reluctant to play astatine AFCON owed to his…

— OneFootball (@OneFootball) December 28, 2023

Which clubs volition miss players to AFCON and the Asian Cup?

Joining the database of nine absentees, the precocious crowned men’s African footballer of the year Victor Osimhen volition besides crook up for Nigeria aft taking his permission from Italy’s defending champions Napoli, whom helium helped clinch their archetypal Serie A rubric since 1990.

French champions Paris Saint-Germain volition suffer Achraf Hakimi to 1 of the pre-tournament favourites Morocco.

In the Saudi Pro League, Al Nassr volition person to bash without defending champions Senegal’s Sadio Mane, and Al-Ahli volition suffer Riyad Mahrez to Algeria.

Here are immoderate of the big-name players replacing their nine colours with that of their state during AFCON and the Asian Cup 2023:

Premier League

  • Arsenal: Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan)
  • Aston Villa: Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)
  • Chelsea: Nicolas Jackson (Senegal)
  • Fulham: Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
  • Liverpool: Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Wataru Endo (Japan)
  • Manchester United: Andre Onana (Cameroon), Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
  • Tottenham Hotspur: Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal), Yves Bissouma (Mali), Son Heung-min (South Korea)
  • West Ham: Mohammed Kudus (Ghana), Said Benrahma (Algeria), Nayef Aguerd (Morocco) and Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)

Ligue 1

  • Paris Saint-Germain: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Lee Kang-in (South Korea)
  • Lille: Nabil Bentaleb and Adam Ounas (both Algeria)
  • Nice: Hicham Boudaoui (Algeria)
  • Le Havre: Andre Ayew (Ghana)
  • Marseille: Iliman Ndiaye and Ismaila Sarr (both Senegal)
  • Monaco: Takumi Minamino (Japan)

Serie A

  • AC Milan: Ismael Bennacer (Algeria), Samuel Chukwueze (Nigeria)
  • Napoli: Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)
  • Roma: Houssem Aouar (Algeria)

Saudi Pro League

  • Al-Ahli: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Edouard Mendy (Senegal), Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast)
  • Al Ahly: Ali Maaloul (Tunisia) 
  • Al Ittihad: Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt) 
  • Al Nassr: Seko Fofana (Ivory Coast)
  • Al-Hilal: Yassine Bounou (Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)


  • Bayer Leverkusen: Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso), Victor Boniface (Nigeria)
  • Stuttgart: Silas (DR Congo)
  • Borussia Dortmund: Sebastien Haller (Ivory Coast)
  • Bayern Munich: Noussair Mazraoui (Morocco), Kim Min-jae (South Korea)

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